How Often Should You Replace Pillows: A Quick and Easy Guide
How often you replace your pillow depends on the filling and how well you take care of it, but in general they can last 2-5 years. If it’s losing its shape, it may be time to change the pillow as this can impact neck health. Pillows can also accumulate allergens if not cleaned properly
Pillows with cheap stuffing may only last a year or two, but if kept clean, some can last over 10 years
Many pillows need to be replaced because they’ve lost their shape and cause neck discomfort
Your pillow also may need to be replaced if you have allergy symptoms from built-up dust mites or mold
Did you know?
As long as you clean the filling, many pillows can be repaired, re-filled, or repurposed for things like stuffed animals and rags. Some natural rubber materials, like Bearaby’s Melofoam™, can even be composted as it’s biodegradable.
Got a pillow that’s looking a bit lumpier or yellower than it should? Just bought a sparkling brand-new one and are wondering what kind of mileage you can get out of it?
Knowing how often to replace pillows depends largely on the type and how well you take care of it. And while it can be inconvenient it beats the potential negative health effects of using the same old cushion
From down feathers to latex, each filling breaks down differently and requires a different type of care. Others are destined for an early trip to the trash heap.
Why It’s Important To Replace Pillows
If you’ve used the same pillow for years and years, you may be wondering what all the fuss is all about. After all, some people can make their cushions last longer than others.
If you’re taking good care of that pillow, there may be no problems. But if the most you do is toss the pillowcase in the wash every now and then there are several potential negative health outcomes, such as:
- Respiratory difficulties
- Skin irritations
- Neck pain
If you’ve never dealt with any of these issues, congratulations! However, it may just be a matter of time, because when it comes to pillows the problems can build up over time for many reasons.
One of the top reasons to take care of your pillow and possibly replace it is dust mites. They’re microscopic creatures that feed off dead skin cells and can leave droppings and carcasses in your pillows.
Dust mite allergies are common and can impact both the respiratory system and cause skin issues. If they’ve built up in your pillow, it may be time to replace it.
Another issue that can cause allergic reactions is mold. It can show up quickly or make its way into the fabric of the pillow filling over time, especially in humid situations. A 2021 case review found that foam pillows like memory foam may be especially susceptible.
Sometimes your pillow may look like it’s full of mold, but that doesn’t always mean that it is. If not cared for and washed properly, the oils from your skin and hair can slowly stain the pillow over time, turning it yellow and brown. This isn't necessarily a health hazard, but the sight may be a good reason to make a change.
Loss of Shape
On the less nauseating side of things, there are the pillows that have simply lost their shape. This can happen to any pillow, from latex to polyester. However, some pillow types can be repaired and re-shaped, like down pillows.
Why is this a problem? As pillows lose their stability they also lose the ability to properly support your upper spine’s curve.
How to Know When the Pillow Needs to Go
Given the different issues that can arise from using old pillows, there are a few signs that’ll help you figure out when to give the old headrest the boot:
- Increased allergy symptoms after sleeping – runny nose, difficulties breathing
- Increased neck pain when waking
- Skin irritations like eczema
- Discolored pillow
When you break it down, these signs all point to one thing: a change in your health or the structure of your pillow. If you notice that you’re waking up with new problems, it may be time to toss or repurpose that pillow.
How Often Should You Get a New Pillow?
No two pillows are exactly the same, and there are more varieties on the market now than ever. Unfortunately, how often you replace a pillow depends on that type. And as long as you’re taking good care of it, the biggest factor to consider is how well it keeps its shape.
On one end of the spectrum, polyester fiberfill pillows sometimes last as little as six months before they start to lose their form. Since they’re harder to re-shape, this often means they become less effective.
Foam products made of natural rubber generally last longer (in the 3-5 year range). For example, Bearaby’s Cuddler, Hugget, and Cuddling pillows are all made with Melofoam™, a natural rubber material that won’t need replacing for at least that long if you’re careful.
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Of course, all of this depends on whether you’re keeping your pillow clean.
Pillow Care and Replacement Guidelines
To get the most out of your pillow, there are a few basic steps to follow. Step one is to make sure to keep your pillows in cases. This not only can keep the actual pillow and its contents clean, but in some cases can also prevent allergens from reaching your skin.
Proper care of the actual pillow can also make them last longer, and care instructions are very different depending on the filling type.
|Pillow Filling Type||Care Instructions||Length of Use|
|Polyester Fiberfill||Can be machine-washed and dried 2-3 times per year, but this can lead to a loss of pillow shape. Take it out of the dryer several times during a cycle to re-fluff||6 m – 2 yrs|
|Cotton||Machine-wash 2-3 times per year, dry similarly to polyester pillows, fluffing frequently||2 years|
|Memory Foam||Avoid completely submerging in water and spot-clean only. Thoroughly air-dry after without dryer machines as they can harm the foam. You can also use vacuum cleaners with brush attachments to get rid of dust.||2-3 years|
|Latex||Same instructions as memory foam. Avoid getting wet and air-dry if that happens.||3-5 years|
|Down and Feather||Can typically be machine-washed and dried, but will need extra fluffing after. New feathers can also be added to the existing filling if you want to stretch the pillow’s life further.||4-5 years|
|Buckwheat||No machine washing and avoid moisture. Air out in the sun every two weeks to prevent allergen build-up and dry out potential wet spots. Can also vacuum.||10+ years|
While you can wash your pillow a few times per year to keep mold and dust away, it’s even more crucial to use and frequently wash a pillow case. Removable pillow cases should be washed every week if possible as they can quickly build up dust, oils and even mold.
Got more questions about how often to replace pillows? Here are some of the common ones and their answers.
Is It Good To Sleep Without A Pillow?
It can be good to sleep without a pillow, but the only way to really tell is to try it and see how you feel throughout the night and in the morning. For some people – especially stomach and back sleepers – pillows that are too thick can push the neck’s natural curve into odd positions. Sleeping without a pillow may solve this.
However, most back sleepers will feel better with a pillow supporting the base of their neck.
Is It Better To Have 1 Or 2 Pillows?
It’s usually better to have one pillow if you’re a back sleeper, but two is often better for side sleepers.
The goal when setting up your bed is to find a way to keep your spine in line throughout the night. For side sleepers, this may mean thicker, firmer pillows that don’t allow the head to droop to the shoulder. For back sleepers, one pillow that keeps the head in a similar position to good standing posture is often optimal.
What Pillows Last The Longest?
Buckwheat pillows are some of the longest-lasting natural pillow types because the husks tend not to deteriorate much over time. As long as you keep good care of them by drying them out in the sun occasionally and avoiding moisture, they can last for decades.
Among the synthetic pillow fillings, latex is one of the longest lasting. Its sturdy foam doesn’t easily break down if taken care of properly and typically lasts at least 4-5 years.
Why Do Old Pillows Turn Yellow?
Old pillows turn yellow because of the body’s natural oils, sweat, and sometimes skin care products that seep through pillow cases and into the pillow’s fabric over time. This can happen much quicker if pillow cases aren’t washed regularly.
The yellow stains aren’t a cause for concern themselves, but they may be a sign that your pillows and pillow cases aren’t being washed often enough. This could mean dust mite and mold build-up under the surface.
The two main signs that your pillows need to be replaced are growing neck discomfort in the morning and signs of an allergic reaction like a runny nose or a rash. You can avoid most allergens by keeping the pillow clean and using a case. However, some pillows lose their shape faster than others.
Cheaper materials may lose shape within a year or two, but others, like the Melofoam™ in our Cuddler, Hugget, and Cuddling, can retain their shape for much longer. Better shape will hopefully mean an easier time rolling out of bed in the morning.